Despite all the trouble and uncertainty from previous trips, Barry decides to go back in time to have Eobard Thawne help him solve his speed equation. He goes back to the time when Hartley was terrorizing Central City with his vibration gauntlets, tranquilizes past-Barry and takes his place. For a time, Barry is convincing enough as his past self to evade suspicion, but Thawne is nothing if not insightful and Barry brings more than himself and his smugly knowing glances back from the future. Barry is followed by a Time Wraith and Thawne quickly deduces that Barry is from the future. Once captured and confronted, Barry smartly escapes death with a few clever fabrications and basically blackmails Thawne into helping him with the speed equation. Meanwhile, there is no known way to stop Time Wraiths so a solution to that takes precedence. Plus, in the midst of that, past-Barry recovers from the tranquilizer more quickly than expected and Barry is forced to come clean (although with as few details as possible) to himself and his friends. With the Wraith threatening Central City, Thawne simply gives Barry a flash drive (get it?) and tells him to vamoose, saying that Cisco and Caitlin will have a solution to the problem when he returns in a year. When Barry makes it back, Cisco’s invention doesn’t work, but Hartley – thanks to Barry’s foresightful intervention – has turned to the good side and takes down the Wraith with his gauntlets. Now Barry has all the information he needs to finish his speed equation and be fast enough to stop Zoom – theoretically.
Like on Earth-2, the past is a strange and distracting place – although perhaps more dangerous for its utter familiarity. When Barry comes face to face with the very alive Eddie, he is overcome by seeing his friend and knowing that his death is inevitable. Barry, having had a conversation with the still mourning Iris only a few hours previously, stops to take a video of Eddie giving Iris a birthday message. It is, conveniently, everything Iris needs to hear in order to help her move on from Eddie’s death – about how strong she is, how she doesn’t need him, and how much he wants her to be happy. I honestly forgot how much I miss Eddie as a character, and I think that’s the effect his appearance is meant to have on the audience, and is practically the same one he has on Barry.
I have to say, though, that when Barry returned to the future, I almost expected Eddie to be alive somehow and that Iris might have been referring to “almost a year” since maybe their wedding and that she was nostalgically looking at an album of wedding photos. How twisty would that have been?
I’m obviously a fan of time travel story lines and greatly enjoy the potential for complex and intertwining plots. I think this has been the best episode in a really long time and is perhaps partly down to a new perspective on old times.